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New body to improve racing Greyhound welfare in 2008

AT THE end of November 2007 the Donoughue Report into animal welfare problems surrounding Greyhound Racing in the UK found the sport lacking and said it must pay the costs of canine welfare regulation or suffer increasing criticism and falling attendances at races. The past month has seen a number of positive responses from the British Greyhound Racing Board, (BGRB) who are taking on board many of the report’s recommendations.

The BGRB says it has put its weight behind the Donoughue Report. At the end of January it nominated Michael Bailey, a BGRB independent director, to be its representative on a transition committee to establish the new Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), a Regulatory Authority recommended by Donoughue.

The BGRB has said that: ‘[The] shape, direction and principles underlying Donoughue have our total support. In particular we want to see the new board up and running as soon as is practicable.’

Few veterinary students consider greyhound racing as a career step but in early February the BGRB announced a series of new initiatives designed to encourage more vets to take a greater interest in the sport. These include a joint development programme with the University of Liverpool.

For the first time, the sport is to offer bursaries to students wishing to carry out short-term research projects into greyhound welfare.

This summer the BGRB will co-ordinate work experience placements for students at the kennels of a number of trainers that are involved in its NVQ scheme, and offer opportunities to shadow track vets during race meetings.

Towards the end of February the BGRB broke new ground when Steve Goody, Director of Companion Animal Welfare at The Blue Cross was invited to join its Welfare Committee.
The BGRB Welfare Committee works closely with the National Greyhound Racing Club, (NGRC) over rules and best practices in the sport. It focuses on track safety and track improvement work, welfare research, retired greyhounds, the dog trainers' assistance fund and the training and education programme.

However, animal welfare observers have said that after so many years of neglect, greyhound racing has its work cut out if it wants to improve its image. Welfare issues are of paramount importance. Lord Donoughue said clearly in his report’s summary that until the sport can demonstrate a truly welfare-friendly environment, it will fail to attract affluent, modern, young, men and women - its future audience.

Scandals such as the Seaham Greyhound graveyard and the more recent Greyhound ‘spare parts trade’ have done little to improve the industry’s image. The positive moves towards improving both the industry’s image and the long-term welfare of racing Greyhounds.